Remarks by Ambassador Yohannes at the White House Ethiopian-American Policy Briefing

On June 8, 2016, Ambassador Daniel W. Yohannes co-hosted the inaugural Ethiopian American Policy Briefing at the White House. Below are his prepared remarks.

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome! Dehna walach-hu!

I have the distinct pleasure of welcoming you to the White House and I am delighted  to be here.

I am the U.S. Ambassador to the OECD, an international organization that helps strengthen the function of global markets and level the playing field for American businesses and workers.  I am a proud American. I am also Ethiopian.  And I am now proudly representing the U.S. abroad.

The story of how I came to the United States is one that I am sure will sound familiar to many of you.  When I was 16, I immigrated to the United States alone and with $50 in my pocket.  I came here for one simple reason: opportunity.  It was not always easy, but from that journey, I learned two important lessons that I would like all of you to think about during today’s events.

First, education is key.  I put myself through school. And then, through business school.  I took advantage of the opportunities that the U.S. provides. I worked hard, and was able to become the CEO of the 5th largest bank in the United States.

Prior to being appointed Ambassador, President Obama appointed me the CEO of the Millenium Challenge Corporation, or MCC.  MCC is an independent agency that leads the fight against global poverty.  I saw it again and again over the course of my life, especially at MCC.  Education lifts people out of poverty and provides opportunity.  So please, continue to educate yourself. Stay in school.  Stay curious.  Read the New York Times.  Be a student of the world. That is what being an American is all about.

My second point is, please stay engaged.  While most of my career was spent in the private sector as a banker, I was always involved in my community in Denver.  I was involved with the local hospitals.  I was involved in the Arts, helping to open a new wing in the Denver Art Museum on African art.  I joined a group led by the Mayor of Denver to improve the environment of cities and reduce greenhouse emissions.  And of course, I was involved in Presidential elections.

Why is this important?

Well, as our community continues to grow in the United States, especially in D.C. and Maryland, this is an opportunity for us to increase our activity and engrain ourselves within the fabric of American society.  We have an opportunity to be an active voice in our community, to help those who come after us.

Today is a great start.  The Office of Public Engagement has organized a fantastic day of events and panels, and so please – listen, ask questions, and take full advantage of this opportunity.

And I will leave you with one final thought.  I am betting that, 20 years from now, one of you, will be standing here, welcoming the next leaders in the Ethiopian American community to the White House.  Don’t let me down!

Thank you, and enjoy!